Jewish Children, Sholem Aleichem
Jewish Children
Sholem Aleichem
7:52 h Novels Lvl 5.24
Jewish Children is Sholem Aleichem's collection of short stories, most of which revolve around Jewish holidays. Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, better known under his pen name Sholem Aleichem, was a Yiddish author and playwright. The 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on his stories about Tevye the Dairyman, was the first commercially successful English-language stage production about Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

Jewish Children

by
Sholem Aleichem

Translated by Hannah Berman


A Page from the “Song of Songs”

Busie is a name; it is the short for Esther-Liba: Libusa: Busie. She is a year older than I, perhaps two years. And both of us together are no more than twenty years old. Now, if you please, sit down and think it out for yourself. How old am I, and how old is she? But, it is no matter. I will rather tell you her history in a few words.

My older brother, Benny, lived in a village. He had a mill. He could shoot with a gun, ride on a horse, and swim like a devil. One summer he was bathing in the river, and was drowned. Of him they said the proverb had been invented: “All good swimmers are drowned.” He left after him the mill, two horses, a young widow, and one child. The mill was neglected; the horses were sold; the young widow married again, and went away, somewhere, far; and the child was brought to us.

The child was Busie.


That my father loves Busie as if she were his own child; and that my mother frets over her as if she were an only daughter, is readily understood. They look upon her as their comfort in their great sorrow. And I? Why is it that when I come from “cheder,” and do not find Busie I cannot eat? And when Busie comes in, there shines a light in every corner. When Busie talks to me, I drop my eyes. And when she laughs at me I weep. And when she….


I waited long for the dear good Feast of Passover. I would be free then. I would play with Busie in nuts, run about in the open, go down the hill to the river, and show her the ducks in the water. When I tell her, she does not believe me. She laughs. She never believes me. That is, she says nothing, but she laughs. And I hate to be laughed at. She does not believe that I can climb to the highest tree, if I like. She does not believe that I can shoot, if I have anything to shoot with. When the Passover comes — the dear good Passover — and we can go out into the free, open air, away from my father and mother, I shall show her such tricks that she will go wild.


The dear good Passover has come.

They dress us both in kingly clothes. Everything we wear shines and sparkles and glitters. I look at Busie, and I think of the “Song of Songs” that I learnt for the Passover, verse by verse:

“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks; thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

“Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which come up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

“Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely; thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks.”

Tell me, please, why is it that when one looks at Busie one is reminded of the “Song of Songs”? And when one reads the “Song of Songs,” Busie rises to one’s mind?

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